08/27/2017 – Matthew 5:10 – Happy to be Blessed: “Persecuted for Righteousness–>Kingdom of God”

Please click HERE to find the AUDIO of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:10

Happy to Be Blessed: “Persecuted for Righteousness–>Kingdom of God”

08/27/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the eighth Beatitude: 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed in our homes, in our city, amongst our national leaders, and across this globe. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

Do we need mercy shown in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: BE GRACE-FILLED!

Do we need peace in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: MAKE PEACE!

 

The 1st four Beatitudes are all about how much WE NEED GOD in order to live fulfilled lives! Poor in spirit, mourning over that poverty, humbled by our spiritual condition, and then, transitionally we begin to resemble God’s character by desiring righteousness. And God promises His eternal presence and comfort and satisfaction.

 

And then the 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well. Like the fruit of the Spirit, these grow in us as we grow in Christ.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-10 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.  

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 (NIV)

 

Take a quick look at what we just read. Your Sermon Notes page lists two more verses (we’ll get to them next week), but I want to suggest that the proper list of Beatitudes actually ends here, in verse 10, with Beatitude #8. Here’s why:

What do you notice about verse 3, Beatitude #1, and verse 10, Beatitude #8? They are the only two with the same Promise (“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). And verse 11 starts with a very different subjective pronoun – the first 8 say, “Blessed are those (or the) …”; verse 11 says, “Blessed are you …”. I think the proper Beatitudes end with today’s verse, and the next line is like a postscript, an application, an assignment. We’ll get there next Sunday.

So Beatitude #1 and Beatitude #8 are like bookends – “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. They remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

The 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits.

Being “MERCIFUL” displays a life filled with God’s grace.

Being “PURE in HEART” reveals one’s utmost priority in life.

Being a “PEACEMAKER” exhibits our spiritual genes.

 

But now, verse 10, Beatitude #8, shifts gears again. Yes, being persecuted is a Christ-like character trait.

Being “PERSECUTED for RIGHTEOUSNESS” is exactly what JESUS did!

 

And there’s another place-marker. The first four Beatitudes end with desiring RIGHTEOUSNESS. And the second four end with being persecuted for that same RIGHTEOUSNESS!

The Beatitudes are both bookended with kingdom of heaven and sectioned-off landing on the theme of righteousness.

 

But did you hear a difference between this Beatitude and the first seven? What is that difference?

Any English majors out there? Any linguists? School teachers? What do you notice about the verb used in today’s Beatitude? It is in the PASSIVE voice! All the other Beatitudes are ACTIVE verbs (including the to-BE verbs): BE poor in spirit; MOURN; BE meek; HUNGER & THIRST for righteousness; HAVE mercy; SHOW a pure heart; MAKE peace.

Beatitude #8: PERSECUTED!

This is the result of being one who recognizes spiritual poverty, mourns that condition, humbly accepts that truth, desires God’s righteousness, acts mercifully, keeps God’s kingdom as top priority, and steps into the riotous mess and makes peace. These people will be persecuted!

Maybe this is the litmus test for how well we actually live into the other Beatitudes. Am I persecuted? If not, maybe I’m really not living like Jesus wants me to live….

 

But before we get too far down that road, let’s make sure we understand what it means to be persecuted? Being “unfriended” on Facebook is not persecution for righteousness!

(Click HERE for the TIM HAWKINS routine on “the worst”.)

There are Christ-followers across this globe who are thrown in prison, hunted down and tortured, whose families are criminalized because of their Christian faith. That is persecution.

Someone “unfriending” me because I post a comment about Jesus hardly meets that kind of definition.

However, we do live in a world now, here in America, where there is some legit persecution happening – where businesses are sued, where people face unemployment, where lives are threatened because of a Christian perspective.

Because that’s what this persecution is about! “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness” means for doing the WORK of our heavenly Father in the midst of a world that REJECTS that!

 

And the promise for this Christ-like character trait (as we’ve already seen in the 1st Beatitude) is to be given the “KINGDOM of HEAVEN” – abiding with God and His blessings forever!

But let’s not miss one more distinctive. In Beatitudes #2-#7 the promise is always future tense – they will be comforted, will inherit the earth, will be filled, will be shown mercy, will see God, will be called children of God. But in Beatitudes #1 and #8 it is very present tense. “Theirs IS the kingdom of heaven!

Friends, being persecuted is no fun. Boris spent years in prison, in solitary confinement, simply because he was a Christ-following church leader under the regime of a communist/socialist government. None of that was any fun! Yesterday’s paper told us that Spokane’s Slavic churches have on display a museum of different ways that Christians in Ukraine Kyrgyzstan and Belarus hid their Bibles because to get caught with one meant prison! But experiencing the kingdom of God does not wait for us to die and “go to heaven”. “Theirs IS the kingdom of heaven!” Right now! In power and in grace!

 

How do we live this Beatitude out?

Some of you will remember that these Beatitudes are stated in what is called an Indicative/Imperative clause. The statement Indicates a truth/and then imperates our behavior.

  • The truth is that as followers of Jesus, as people who call Jesus both Lord and Savior, we are people who might be persecuted for righteousness.

And the command is to live our faith out loud in such a way that that happens. And the promise is for right now! The Old Testament prophet Isaiah once said (again, note the verb tense), “He hath swallowed up death in victory, And wiped hath the Lord Jehovah, The tear from off all faces, And the reproach of His people He turneth aside from off all the earth, For Jehovah hath spoken.

And [one] hath said in that day, ‘Lo, this [is] our God, We waited for Him, and He saveth us, This [is] Jehovah, we have waited for Him, We joy and rejoice in His salvation.’” (Isaiah 25, YLT)

 

Do you live that out? Do you want to? Is Jesus in your life? Let’s make that happen today – the kingdom of heaven, right now!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

 

Glodo, Michael J.; “Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 28-30.

 

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08/13/2017 – Matthew 5:9 – Happy to be Blessed: “Peace-Making–>Children of God”

Click HERE to LISTEN to this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:9

Happy to Be Blessed: “Peace-Making–>Children of God”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

There’s this group of everyday Jews gathered on a hillside to listen to a “new teacher” who’s just started His lecture, but there a few in the back who missed His last point because of an argument they started with each other:

 

“What was that?”

“I think it was, ‘blessed are the cheese-makers’.”

“Uh … what’s so special about the cheese-makers?”

“Obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.”

 

Then the argument resumes and escalates into name-calling and threats of violence, and an obscure, not-involved, third-party man interrupts and says, “Oh, lay off him.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xLUEMj6cwA  (my apologies for the cussing toward the end of this clip)

 

Some of you are in as much trouble as I am, because you obviously recognized those lines from Monty Python’s 1979 classic The Life of Brian. That 25-second dialog cleverly does three things that are worthy of note:

  • It points out that we sometimes mis-understand what Scripture is teaching.
  • It suggests that we need to be careful about how we rationalize our interpretations.
  • It closes with one very insignificant character demonstrating what Jesus actually says in His Sermon on the Mount.
    • What does Jesus actually say here? “Blessed are the PEACE-makers.”
    • What does this “third-party man interrupting the argumentdo? He MAKES PEACE among his neighbors! He enacts what Jesus says!

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come near the end with the seventh Beatitude: Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.

 

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed in our homes, in our city, amongst our national leaders, and across this globe – last Thursday’s Spokesman-Review headlined War Games, with a map of how far North Korea’s nuclear weapons could reach; and the headline was followed with our own President’s trumpets of “fire and fury; page 4 headlined with Deadly Kenya protests as opposition alleges vote hacking, with a story about their national elections and reactions to the expected outcomes; Yesterday’s news displayed a group of white supremacists carrying torches and marching through the University of VA; and yesterday ended with at least one death. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

Do we need peace in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: MAKE PEACE!

 

The 1st four Beatitudes are all about how much we NEED God in order to live fulfilled lives! Poor in spirit, mourning over that poverty, humbled by our spiritual condition, and then, transitionally we begin to resemble God’s character by desiring righteousness. And God promises His eternal presence and comfort and satisfaction.

 

And then the 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well. Like the fruit of the Spirit, these grow in us as we grow in Christ.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-9 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.  (NIV)

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. They remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

The 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits.

Being “MERCIFUL” displays a life filled with God’s grace.

Being “PURE in HEART” reveals one’s utmost priority in life.

Being a “PEACEMAKER” exhibits our spiritual genes.

 

Let me take you back to that Monty Python scene. The first thing those present at the Sermon on the Mount do is MIS-understand what Jesus says. You and I do not have the same excuse they had – we’re not standing at the back of a several thousand-person crowd trying to hear what someone up on the hill is saying (without the help of electronic amplification). We have His sermon in print!  We can read it! And re-read it! But we still, too easily, mis-understand what Jesus is saying.

What do we often think of when we think of a “peace-maker”? Some of us think of a gun – and perhaps that sometimes plays an appropriate part in the process of peace-making – but most of us, I believe, water it down to “peace-KEEPING”. If I don’t cause a stir, or if I just hold my tongue, if I listen to Mom who told me “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

But is that what Jesus means here? Dr. Martin Luther King said something about how when we passively accept evil we are as much involved in the evil as he who helps perpetrate it; when we see something wrong and don’t do anything to stop it or fix it, we participate in the wrong we’ve witnessed.

 

So, how do we MAKE peace? Is it with a gun? Do we make peace when we avoid conflict? When we walk away from an argument? The Greek word Matthew uses to record JesusSermon on the Mount is Eirene – which is usually, commonly, used to describe a state of national tranquility or harmony between individuals or personal serenity; but it is also used to describe something special about the way that leads to salvation and that provides for a sense of spiritual satisfaction.

The Hebrew word used would have been SHALOM, but this word always includes far more than just absence of conflict. It also means WHOLENESS, COMPLETE, FINISHED. When Jesus spoke His last words on the cross, what did He say?It is finished.” That comes from Psalm 22, and the word there is not shalom, but the word used carries with it a sense of shalom.

Having Peace suggests something of experiencing fullness; we are not finished until we have what Jesus offers from the cross and the empty tomb. We are not peacemakers until we hear those words rightly, and bring them with us to the hurting world in which we find ourselves – our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates, our national leaders and any who know fear or estrangement….

A true peacemaker does not AVOID conflict, but engages conflict in order to RESOLVE it!

 

The woman who questionswhat’s so special about cheesemakers?felt abandoned by the blessing because she was notone who manufactured dairy products”. So her husband who explains that “it’s not to be taken literallymade the blessing easier to accept, but worthless to his wife. It’s one thing to misunderstand what the Scriptures teach, it’s entirely something else to assume we understand without taking the time to listen to it carefully and then make it say what we want it to say; when we don’t listen to the entirety of the counsel of God’s Word.

Probably what I hear most out of context and re-interpreted so that it’s less demanding on its hearers is this: “Judge not lest ye be judged. (Matthew 7:1-2)” If I read that to mean that I am not allowed to have an opinion about what someone else says or does, then I have no reason to confront that person with any sort of lifestyle correction. “Yeah, he cheats on his wife, but who am I to judge? We’re all sinners, right? Like Jesus said, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’.” But is that what Jesus really says? The context suggests that it’s really about hypocrisy – it’s followed immediately by the counsel to take the log out of your own eye before you start pointing out specks in someone else’s eye. Jesus then goes on to talk about not throwing your pearls before swine. That might require one to judge what is a pearl and who is a swine. Two reasons why this interpretation is wrongany society void of judging would soon devolve into chaos – murder? “don’t judge….” And without judgment, forgiveness would be impossible. If I cannot judge a behavior as wrong, I have no reason to forgive you for doing it (but obviously, Jesus says to forgive as we have been forgiven).

We tend to rationalize our interpretations to make the Scripture’s reading – more easy, less demanding, etc.

 

In that scene from The Life of Brian, a man on the side, not involved with the argument, not taking part in the Q & A about “cheesemakersinterrupts all the hubbub and tells his crowd-neighbors to just drop their dispute: “Oh, lay off him,” he says. He takes a step toward conflict to resolve it.

How do we live this Beatitude out?

Some of you will remember that these Beatitudes are stated in what is called an Indicative/Imperative clause. The statement Indicates a truth/and then imperates our behavior.

  • The truth is that as followers of Jesus, as people who call Jesus both Lord and Savior, we are people of peace – we’ve attained wholeness, completeness, soul-satisfaction, we have a life-giving relationship with the God of the universe. And, therefore, we are makers of peace as we “make disciples, baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit….”

You are a person of peacenot because that’s how we earn God’s favor, but because we already ARE God’s favor! You carry God’s genetic make-up, His DNA, because you have “believed and receivedJesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22 that “Peace” is one piece of the Fruit of the Spirit. It is a confidence and rest in the wisdom and control of God, rather than our own control.

  • And the command is to live that out fully, with utter shalom. The Old Testament King Solomon once said, “When a man’s ways please Jehovah, even his enemies, He causes to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7). We are peacemakers when we are in full relationship with Jehovah/Yahweh, when our lives please Him because we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

 

Do you live that out? Do you want to? Is Jesus in your life? Let’s make that happen today – wholeness, holiness….

 

The promise for this Christ-like character trait is to be called “CHILDREN of GOD!John 1:10-13 tells us, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God … born of God!”

The NIV translates this promise as “they will be called children of God.” And that is a very fine/accurate translation. But the word used for “children” is a word that literally translates as “sons”. Now, it is perfectly true that in most languages when the masculine word is used in the plural it can mean both genders, sons and daughters, children. But there is another, gender-neutral word that could have been used to mean children. Here Matthew uses the Greek word for “sons”, and I want to suggest how significant that might be. I do believe it totally means both males and females, men and women, sons and daughters, but by using the word for “Sons of GodMatthew (and Jesus) cleverly connects us to the “Son of God”.

We know that Jesus is the unique, only begotten, Son of God; but don’t miss what the Scriptures teach us: Luke’s genealogy of Jesus goes all the way back to “Adam, the son of God; and in Exodus 4, God tells Moses to tell the Pharaoh to let His people go, “Israel, my son” (and then He sends the angel of death to take the first-born sons of Egypt); in the Gospels we discover the fulfillment of this image with the birth of Jesus as the Son of God – do you see the biblical thread running through here? Now, “Peacemakers will be called Sons of God!

We are co-heirs with Christ! We carry God’s DNA when we are in shalom-relationship with God as our Father by faith through Jesus Christ!

As discipled followers of Jesus we are already what we hope to becomemakers of peace. But here’s the thing – we can do better as we live our lives seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness, as child-like followers of Jesus, what we are promised is to be sons/children of God.

 

Do you want that? Find a place in your life that seems filled with turmoil, with discontent, with hostility, with fear or anger – and step into that with God’s peace, with God’s grace, with confidence in God’s sovereign presence – and offer God’s peace into that situation/relationship, with prayer and humility, because we cannot do it on our own!

The world will see this, and we will not be able to contain the joys of heaven!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

 

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian; Monty Python; 1979.

 

Naves, Dirk; “Blessed Are The Peacemakers”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 27.